Jonah Goldberg

Are Senate Democrats anti-Catholic? Probably not.

Are Republicans right to accuse Democrats of religious bias against Catholics? Probably, yes.

If I sound ambivalent, it's because I am. On the one hand, I think the suggestion that the Senate Democrats who oppose Alabama Attorney General William Pryor are religious bigots is unfair. Several of the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee are themselves Catholic.

Their objection to Pryor's nomination for a federal judgeship rests on their zealotry on one side of the abortion issue and what they perceive as Mr. Pryor's zealotry on the other side. Senators Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Ted Kennedy, D- Mass., and the rest are very pro-abortion and Mr. Pryor is very anti. He's called Roe vs. Wade "the worst abomination in the history of constitutional law" and that it has "led to the slaughter of millions of innocent, unborn children. That's my personal belief."

In response, the Democrats, particularly Schumer and Feinstein, keep harping on what Schumer calls Pryor's "very, very deeply held views." Feinstein explained to Pryor, "Virtually in every area you have extraordinarily strong views which continue to come out in a number of different ways."

The problem is that those "deeply held views" are the required views of observant and faithful Catholics - and Baptists, Mormons, Orthodox Jews, etc. In other words, if in your heart you adhere to the instructions of your faith on a major moral issue, you are unqualified or at least less qualified to hold important government positions.

The Democratic senators say they don't care that Mr. Pryor's views stem from his Catholicism. If he were an Indian shaman or Buddhist priest, the Democrats would still be against him so long as he was opposed to Roe vs. Wade (though considering how many liberal constituencies see Buddhists and Indians as exotic, Democrats would probably be nicer to Pryor if he converted).

But just because the Democrats are not bigoted, that doesn't mean they aren't biased. A number of liberal journalists, Richard Cohen of The Washington Post, Peter Beinart of the New Republic and even Byron York, my colleague at National Review, have accused the Republicans of hypocritically accusing the Democrats of bigotry.

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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